Rhum J.M has launched The EDDEN Project (Engagés pour le Développement Durable de nos Écosystèmes et de notre Nature), marking the rum distillery’s progress as a global spirits producer and leader in the sustainability movement.
Over the past decade, J.M has made a series of developments to its sugarcane rhum distillery improving production quality in a measurable and effective effort to diminish its impact on the natural environment by utilizing key practices to hone their craft within a full circular economy. Nestled at the foot of Mount Pelée, the largest distillery of the area has been a longtime advocate of the sustainability movement in Martinique, working to address the challenges to cultivate within the area’s terroir-driven tropical climate in the most environmentally and socially responsible manner possible.
The summation of their dedication to these core principles included thorough review of their environmental impact on the island of Martinique; key investments towards strict ethical green practices and eco-responsibility within a variety of initiatives such as the preservation of the region’s biodiversity; sugarcane harvesting and volcanic soil cultivation; unique water waste treatment techniques; reduction of emissions by more than 90%; strict waste management protocols, shipping and supply chain efficiency; thorough audits of business practices of its closest suppliers, and investment in its team through technical training and career advancement initiatives. The entire management team drives electric vehicles. To the individual members of the team and community of Martinique as a whole, these endeavors have all been enforced to protect the paradise that is Martinique. The project is a tremendous accomplishment, ensuring that J.M will continue to create rhum that is even more exceptional and ecologically responsible 100 years from now. EDDEN is the culmination of these efforts.
“We produce rum which demands excellence, yet our idea of excellence vastly simply surpasses that of taste alone,” commented Emmanuel Becheau, Managing Director, Rhum J.M. “The lovers of our rhum can be certain that behind each bottle there are passionate women and men committed to excellence, crafting our spirits within this circular economy: EDDEN. It is for our fans that we wish to share what we are learning, our dedication to the planet, and the value we hold for our environment and social responsibility.”
Rhum production and banana cultivation are the most substantial industries on the island, ahead of tourism. J.M is a prime example of how a distillery can utilize renewable energy in multiple ways, especially around the reuse of agricultural byproducts: 100% of plant fiber is repurposed for fuel, electricity, and fertilizer, and 100% of residual liquid is treated and used. Through this process J.M can conserve more than 5M gallons of water annually. J.M is scrutinizing its choices of sugarcane varieties that are planted and cultivated for their rhum production. The distillery produces its own cane plants, grafted from nodes in their nursery and then planted near the distillery. They currently use three main varieties of cane: Canne Roseau (B59.92), Canne Bleue (B 69.566), and Canne Rouge (B64.277), which are particularly suited for the microclimate of the property.
“When you discover Rhum J.M, you cannot help but be moved,” noted Grégoire Guéden, CEO, Spiribam. “We knew it was our responsibility to protect it. How? Continuous innovation, tireless motivation, and limitless passion – because only this will enable us to protect our traditions while also paving the path towards our future. This is both the secret and battle of our centuries-old distillery. In this rich land, swept by trade winds and tropical rains, we grow some of the best sugarcane in the world. We prioritize soil health using crop rotation and fallow. We operate our distillery according to the principles of this circular economy so that the waste products from sugarcane fuel our eco-efficient furnace. Some of our surplus bagasse is delivered to the local biomass plant to produce electricity for the island. With EDDEN, we’re sharing these advancements because this is the way. Exceptional because it is authentic. Exceptional because we care. Rhum J.M is at the crossroads of modernity and tradition, and there is much more on the horizon.”
EDDEN has officially come to life launching J.M as the leader in the beverage industry with the intent to advocate for improved sustainability at distilleries around the world. Most importantly, there is clear transparency throughout the entire process from both B2B and B2C. J.M is a leader of the sustainability movement for all of Martinique, as it is one of the most recognized distilleries undertaking these goals around environmental and social responsibility. To codify their methodology, J.M engaged the sustainability consultants at Linkup Factory. Together, they built a manifesto to serve as a new standard for themselves, their partners, and their community.
“I met the team a few years ago, they told me two things: ‘We probably have the best aged rum in the world, and we may be ahead of the game in rum sustainability.’ Working with companies such as Nestle, Heineken, and PepsiCo, we conducted a similar audit,” explained Philippe Raffin, Executive Vice President, Linkup Factory. “The findings were illuminating, especially in comparison to other distilleries. The distillery has demanding and sophisticated farming practices, which are quite difficult in tropical regions. Strict prohibitions of pesticides and herbicides are in place and the labor force is French, part of the EU, therefore commanding fair wages and social benefits such as access to education, healthcare, and paid leave. Massive investments had already been made, especially in low emission furnaces and distillation apparatuses, which is unique. What’s more is they have a strong willingness to continue to progress. What we witnessed was a kind of magic. Passion deeply rooted in the way the team does their daily job. They have a natural sincerity and dedication for sustainability as one coming from such a small island should have, which is probably, yes: a key trait for creating the best aged rum in the world.”
In 2021, J.M became part of the UN Global Compact, the United Nations-led commitment by global companies to focus on responsible business practices, sustainability, and innovation for the future; to align strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption, and take actions that advance societal goals. Today, it’s the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative. They partnered with Péyi Vert Project, which aims to plant one million trees in Martinique in the next five years in an effort to increase local biodiversity, restore the fertility of degraded soils, fight against air pollution, and reconstitute a green belt for public enjoyment. The distillery has pledged to plant 120 trees per year, with one year already complete. In May, they will receive the Bonsucro Certification, the first member from Martinique, an international not-for-profit governance group established in 2008 to promote sustainable sugarcane and reduce the environmental and social impacts of sugarcane production while recognizing the need for economic viability. By the end of this year, the brand will obtain the Haute Valeur Environmental (HVE) Level 3 Certification, meaning “high environmental value,” awarded by the French Ministry of Agriculture to farmers focused on key areas of environmental conservation. J.M is currently working toward full Level 3 certification, the highest level, which includes achievement in biodiversity conservation, plant protection strategy, management of fertilizer use, and management of water. J.M is currently operating at 80% for Level 3 and 20% for Level 2, reaching 100% Level 3 by the end of 2022.
“Creating a remarkable rum, which honors the prestigious brand Rhum J.M, requires significant patience, as the process is quite lengthy,” said Karine Lassalle, Master Blender of Rhum J.M. “An aged rum for Martinique requires a minimum of three years to produce. Therefore, we need patience and passion because none of this would be possible without passion. And humility, too.”
AgTech for sugarcane farming, such as drones, smart tractors, and meteorological software systems also supports J. M’s goals by providing data points and guidance on precision farming to better create efficiencies in production, less waste, and, ultimately, more environmental viability. Ecotourism is on its way to Martinique, and they are currently building that into consumer offerings, taking visitors behind the “label” to see the full process by witnessing it firsthand on the property. Plans include educational touch points throughout the distillery to explain the Rhum Agricole production process and steps toward sustainability at each point in the cycle, as well as extended guided tours to the agricultural areas of the property to showcase sugarcane cultivation.
“I’m proud. After so many years of development, EDDEN has finally been shared with the world. This is not the end, but truly Day 1 of a lifelong commitment to be a leader of sustainable rum production practices. On Earth Day 2022, EDDEN was officially born from years of dedication, patience, and an ever-growing pursuit of knowledge. A huge milestone accomplishment from one of our own crown jewel rum distilleries!,” commented Ben Jones, Managing Director, Spiribam America.
For more information, head over to Rhum J.M’s official website.